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What’s wrong with chat-up lines?

I spotted this great blog from Aboodi Shabi this week and we are delighted that he has given us his permission to use it here. The blog brilliantly explores the importance of relationship in our work.  As you may know, this is a key understanding in CSA’s work.  Edna Murdoch

What’s wrong with chat-up lines?

“Learn your theories and techniques as well as you can and then be prepared to set them aside when you meet the miracle of the living soul.” – Jung

We humans do seem to love having scripts – from chat-up lines to PowerPoint presentations and coaching techniques, we want to be sure of the best thing to say to get us where we want to go. Amazon has plenty of books on chat up lines, and there are also several pick up courses available. Similarly, there are lists of “great coaching questions” online; in the coaching courses I lead, people often ask me for a coaching technique to deal with a particular coaching issue, etc.

The problem with all of these lines, questions and tips and techniques is that what really gives them meaning is the context, and not the content.. There’s the obvious cliché of the guy who nervously stumbles through a couple of cheesy chat-up lines and thinks that will get him the kiss and ends up having his face slapped instead. Why? Because his attention is on the content and on goal, getting a kiss, rather than on the context or the relationship. Similarly, a coach whose attention is on the great coaching question or on the technique is missing the connection with the coachee.

Many years ago, I had a friend who broke his back, and was lying in a hospital bed for months. Eventually one of his regular nurses looked at him and said, “You’re a f***ing cripple; you’re never going to walk again”. A few months later, he was walking again, and told me that it had been that comment from his nurse that got him to walk. Even though I haven’t read any manuals on nursing technique, I can assure you that you won’t find such an intervention recommended in any guidebooks on nursing! What made that comment work was the relationship, the context, between them.

When we pay attention to the relationship, to the context , then things can become very different: a sincere compliment, rather than a chat-up line from a book, can be a great way to deepen a connection; genuine care for the coaching client can open up great questions and make a big difference in the coaching. Truly connecting with an audience can make a much greater impact than a polished presentation that has been used with a hundred different groups before.

It’s not that PowerPoint can’t be used well (I love this quirky presentation on Identity 2.0 for example), or that coaching techniques aren’t important, or even that having some funny/clever things to say aren’t helpful in dating. It’s more that when we put our attention on those things, rather than on the connection with the person or audience, the techniques rather than the human become the focus – at its worst the other person simply disappears, and it becomes all about us and the technique – which is not an attractive place from which to make any attempt at connection.

If you really want to make an impact or a good connection, then you’re going to have to leave the script and techniques behind, and really pay attention to the relationship and to listen to the person in front of you. It’s risky, yes, but it’s the only way to be truly authentic and present.

As a footnote, you might like to watch this video of me speaking at a conference a few years ago on the importance of focussing on the coaching relationship.


Aboodi Shabi  

 Aboodi’s forthcoming talks and events

30th April 2014 – Newfield Coach Training Programme
9 month coaching programme begins – Winchester, UK

11th-12th June 2014 – The Art of Masterful Coaching
two-day workshop with Academy of Executive Coaching – London

30th September 2014 – The World Beyond Coaching

Evening talk – London Coaching Group – details to follow.

One-to-one Coaching

I am available for one-to-one coaching and individual mentoring for coaches. To find out more, and to arrange an exploratory conversation to see how working with me might help you, please get in touch.  Aboodi.